API Security

What is identity and access management?

What is identity and access management?

Would you like to leave your locker open, with valuables inside, while you’re leaving town or going to sleep? Of course not, as doing so is a foolish act and is like sending invitations to the buglers.

Similarly, one shouldn’t leave its database and information center open for all. This will lead to tons of hassles like data stealing and data mishandling. As data is gold in the digital world, its protection is the prime goal of everyone.

In this post, we are going to spill every bean related to IAM practices to use and adopt.


What Is Identity And Access Management (IAM)?

IAM is a framework that manages key policy terms, standards, procedures, and technologies adopted by a business for efficient management of electronics and digital personas or identities to prevent authorized access.  

Using IAM, IT officers can control how users access business-critical data, in order to safeguard it. Based upon the organizational needs and abilities, IAM can be made up of many layers. For instance, it could feature single sign-on systems, ask for 2 or multi-factor authentication (MFA)  to let you do privilege verification. 

The above-mentioned technologies can be used alone or in combination to have a close watch of everyone accessing the database and restrict it as it’s super-essential today. 

With a wide implementation scope, IAM can be used to safeguard assets like people, resources. Speaking of accessibility, IAM systems can be deployed as a cloud-based tool, on-premise software, or as a hybrid solution. 


Why Is Considering IAM Crucial for You?

Today, businesses need something solid and a stagnant process to shield corporate assets and resources. Seeing the incapability of manual and human-based access handling methods, businesses were forced to give a chance to something that is free from flaw-prone processes and is robust enough to withstand hackers.

Adoption of IAM is an indispensable part of system security as the increased incidences of cyber-attacks and data theft left no place for ignorance.

IAM adoption opens the doors of endless opportunities to automate access monitoring as well as management, add multiple layers to them, and manage them remotely. Because of its endless features and unmatched customization abilities, it’s suitable to protect anything from a small business to a big fat enterprise. It ensures that the approved authorities are gaining access to the ‘useful’ sort of resources. 

Doing the above not only guards the resources but also increases the team productivity and resource utilization as desired elements are easily available to those who need them the most. Unnecessary involvement of people simplifies business operations. It stands gracefully between the end-users and the organizational assets and ensures that no one unauthorized personal or technology is barging in. If one needs to have a dependable security program then IAM integration to the system should not be left out.

What Does IAM Do?

IAM functions at a large level and leaves no stone unturned to keep unconsolidated access at bay. On the operational front, it does the below-mentioned tasks to make this happen:

  1. User Identity Management

With IAM, one can keep track of user identity for various purposes. It allows businesses to generate, modify, and eliminate user information as per the need of the hours. Additionally, end-users are allowed to integrate multiple user directories and synchronize them with each other. Conditional user identities can also be generated with the help of IAM.

  1. Provisioning or de-provisioning of the users 

Based upon the resource accessibility, certain tools should only be used by certain professionals. Granting such conditioned access to tools is called provisioning and IAM makes this possible. Provisioning can be done as per roles, departments, and groups within a company or institution. When such conditioned access is not required, IAM makes de-provisioning possible too. 

  1. Authenticating users at various levels 

IAM is one of the safest ways to define a user and confirm their identity. It’s done using adaptive or multi-factor authentication (MFA) standards. 

  1. User Authorization 

It’s possible to grant access to a certain tool to a certain professional by deploying access control for system users. Depending upon the needs, users can be distributed into groups and grant privileges accordingly. 

  1. Operational reporting 

IAM systems are capable of generating reports on key actions taken over a single click and let you complete the security compliances and keep security risks under control. 

  1. Implementing single sign-on

In SSO, a user is authorized in such a way that its access from a single portal could be confirmed. Some of the IAM solutions come with integrated SSO features/tools to make the process easier for you. 

 

How does IAM Work?

The functionality of IAM depends on confirming the humans, hardware, and virtual applications for their identity. It uses IAM systems checks to see if the user/resource is authorized to complete a certain task or enter a system. Once the users and other elements are defined, IAM grants access as per the defined rules. 

iam service component

Types of User Authentication

IAM uses extensive user identity verification methods and gives full freedom to the end-user regarding their implementation. Here is a detailed explanation of key user authentication procedures. 

Multi-factor Authentication

The Procedure involves combining two or more verification procedures and login credentials together. So, when a user requests access to a particular tool and software, he will have to enter a code after login into a resource. 

Unique Passwords

This method is mostly adopted by users for secured access. It involves using safe and tough passwords for protecting the resource. Usually, a unique combination of digits, characters, and special characters.  

Pre-shared Key (PSK)

PSK or Pre-shared Key is a kind of digital authentication wherein a unique password is shared only with authorized personals. The most common example of PSK is sharing Wi-Fi passwords with the team. It is not as safe as individual passwords. 

Behavioral Authentication

It involves AI to figure out that the user trying to gain access to a particular resource is a human or machine. The process checks if the behavior is appropriate or not. For this, it analyzes granular characteristics, such as mouse-use tracking. Once the IAM figures out that something is not right, the system gets closed automatically. 

Biometrics

Mostly used and managed by high-end IAM systems, certain biometrics traits are matched in this type of identity verification or authentication method. 

Based upon the needs, the biometrics components used in this kind of authentication are the face and finger authentication, iris and voice recognition, and even DNA matching.

It is considered a highly reliable and dependable method for identity verification, but there is a catch here. 

As the gathered information is sensitive, companies with behavioral authentication deployed for their IT infrastructure must use high-end data safety methods, keep the process utterly transparent, and optional for the users.


Identity And Access Management Tools

IAM takes the help of assorted tools to accomplish its purpose. The key tools used by an IAM system are a security policy tool, password management applications, reporting & monitoring tools, provisioning software,  and identity repositories. 

Other than this, MFA is another crucial tool assisting IAM. It deals with 2 or more access control related factors.

Single sign-on (SSO) is also a widely used IAM tool that allows users to sign in only once and provide a centralized platform to manage all sorts of access. 


IAM Technologies

The primary capabilities of an IAM system depends on the use of technology that allows a system to integrate with different systems. The IAM technologies are bound to adhere to certain standards to make sure everything has complied. Here are key technologies and standards adopted for IAM framework:

  1. SAML (Security Access Markup Language)

It is an open standard that is most widely utilized for exchanging identity approval-related details in a proper manner. This information exchange happens between an identity provider and a service/application. IAM systems often make use of it to ensure a secure login to an application. 

  1. OpenID Connect (OIDC)

OIDC is a relatively new standard allowing end-users to gain instant access to the resource from an identity provider. On the surface, it looks similar to the SAML. But, it’s different as it is built using the OAuth 2.0 standards and takes the help of JSON for data transmission.

  1. System for Cross-domain Identity Management (SCIM)

This technology is called up for help to do quick and effective identity information exchange between two different systems. It’s true that SAML and OIDC are capable of sharing the information independently but SCIM is used to keep every piece of information updated during the deployment of new users. Because of this technology, user data is always updated in an IAM system.


Implementing IAM In The Enterprise: What to Bear in Mind

IAM implementation is a diligent job to accomplish. While its implementation in an enterprise is concerned, it’s crucial to decide who is going to lead the team in strategy development, policy enforcement, and their enactment.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that IAM implementation is going to impact every department and team player of an organization. So, it should be done as per everyone’s needs and as per the corporate operational.

IT professionals responsible for IAM system implementation as on-premise solutions should be capable of having an in-depth knowledge of the OSA IAM design pattern for careful identity management. This pattern decides the infrastructure that is used later for interaction with the different IAM components along with the system that lays the foundation of IAM.  

There is one more thing to keep in mind, during IAM implementation as it’s the distinction between policy enforcement and policy decisions. They both are different and deal with different IAM aspects. 

What Are The Risks of Implementing?

No matter how diligent you remain during the IAM implementation, the existence of certain risks is paramount. So, while you’re thinking of doing the IAM implementation, it’s important to keep these risks in mind:

  1. IAM configuration oversights

IAM configuration oversights are of multiple kinds. But, there are three crucial IAM oversights that should not be neglected for sure. They can be stated as:

  • Poor process automation
  • Insufficient provisioning
  • Inadequate reviews

If these IAM oversights are not handled properly then it will take no time for the fall of the IAM system.  

  1. Problems with Biometrics

If biometrics authentication is used for IAM then a whole world of security challenges opens up. For instance, enterprises need to ensure that the system is secure enough to keep data thefts at bay. It’s crucial to ensure that the biometric database is secure and yet easily accessible. It’s hard to do effective disposal of the biometrics data that is no longer needed. 

  1. Adhering to the Security Policy 

It’s very tedious and daunting to ensure security policy implementation. If this aspect is neglected, the entire IAM infrastructure will collapse. To make sure that proper security practices are implemented across the IAM implementation, it’s important to pay attention to the principle of least privilege.  

  1. Issues with Cloud

Users of cloud-based IAM have to be extra cautious when provisioning and deprovisioning user accounts are concerned. It should be handled with the utmost diligence, as there are tons of inactive vulnerabilities assigned to user accounts. One has to keep a watch over the entire cloud-based IAM lifecycle to keep malicious activities at bay.

  1. Old-school Systems

Implementation of multi-factor authentication seems a piece of cake in cloud-based IAM systems as compared to the on-premise system.

  1. Change Management

Keeping a track of access audits is tough as access granted to an employee changes with the change of job roles. 


Compliance and IAM

IAM is a job highly driven by compliance. Even though compliance adherence seems a burdensome job, it’s imperative in successful IAM implementation. There are a couple of standards that any IAM system needs to adhere to without fail. The compliance implementation is done in areas like identity management, access granted, and protection of saved data. Let’s have a look at key compliances that any IAM is bound to follow.

Provision/Deprovision

This is the starting point of any IAM lifecycle and involves granting needed entitlement or revoking it when an employee changes the job or role. At this front, every IAM policy is bound to incorporate details like user identity definitions, access reviews, access to resource locations, user authentication methods, and user access within resource locations. 

Enforcement 

This is the second stage of IAM implementation and deals with enforcing the IAM policies and authorization as SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS. 

At this stage, any IAM system should meet the compliances related to access management policies, SOD or Segregation of Duties Policies, and Consistent Role-Based, Rule-Based, or Attribute-Based Access Requirements

Review/Certify Process 

This process is administered or managed by IT administrators or department managers and involves reviewing the implementation of IAM policies. At this level, it’s crucial to adhere to the compliances related to succession ownership over the process and user access needs. 

Audit Documentation

The document is one of the core functions where compliance is required the most. There is no scope for delays at this front. It won’t be erroneous to say that compliance with documentation is a tiring job.

While creating IAM policies, it’s crucial to explain business-relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) and document everything related to the IAM program. Business-driven metrics and audit processes should meet all the industry-standard compliance. 

All these compliances are tedious and time-consuming. Organizations need to take the help of pre-determined and real-time access control processes to make sure constant adherence with all these regulations and compliances.  

The introduction of modern IAM technologies granted organizations an ability to meet critical compliances like HIPAA, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and NIST guidelines quickly and swiftly. 

iam best practices

API Security and IAM Risks

APIs are the means using which one accesses the digital information. With the help of APIs, organizations are able to build useful and result-driven businesses apps and expand the customer reach. It’s the building block of web and mobile applications. While APIs are so crucial for application development, it’s hard to keep them away from tons of API security vulnerabilities. Yes, many security vulnerabilities are eyeing to ruin your APIs and steal crucial information.

Securing an API is a challenging job as it differs from web security and network security. IAM for security reasons has to be adopted or implemented from a different standpoint.

The most common IAM risk when API’s security is handled is the identity and session threat. It’s very common to get attacked by a hacker in a real session ID and gain unauthorized access to a user’s account. It happens because of poor authentication and authorization control over APIs. If multi-party authentication is used then this issue will become more complicated. 

SQL injection technique is another IAM risk in APIs security. Using this technique, a hacker can alter the database with the help of an infected API. The presence of service information leakage opens the door for undesired access to the API database. Information leak happens when there are poor security implementations made for an API or any bug is present in the APN. 


Ending Notes 


IAM or Identity and access management is a sure-shot way to protect the system and control the system or device access. Its implementation grants ultimate peace of mind to the organizations and keeps security risks at bay. Along with devices, IAM is useful for API security as well. Use this technology, with constant adherence with the compliance, and safeguard resources.

Learning Objectives
It’s demo time